While cleaning her home of 18 years to ready it for a sale, Realtor Connie Schwartzman noticed something unusual in one of the corners of the attic. A pink and blue baby book, full of jotted-down family memories, photos and animal stickers, had been left behind by a former owner of the building.
An associate broker at Long & Foster Real Estate in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Schwartzman — who owns the home but rented it out to families — kept digging and began to uncover everything from baby blankets and birthday cards from grandparents to report cards and the parents’ employment letters. She and her husband had been loading their car with old furniture and abandoned board games past residents had left behind and knew immediately this was different — they had to locate the owners.
“When you’re cleaning out these houses, it’s always a mess,” Schwartzman told Inman. “People leave all kinds of junk. But I’ve never had somebody leave all their memories.” As a mother of two and grandmother of five, Schwartzman knew just how priceless family memories can be.
To find the previous owners, Schwartzman turned to the inside of the baby book for help. A list of previous homeowners didn’t offer any clues that could be helpful.
Based on passages scrawled in the book, Schwartzman learned a girl named Lauren Elisabeth Gaillot had been born on April 12, 1999 to her parents, Tracy Fitzgerald and Donnie Gaillot. Each page had been meticulously filled with details of now 19-year-old Gaillot’s early days — her baby photos, the day she started to crawl, her first birthday, and the day she broke her first tooth. Pages were also decorated with bright animal stickers.
“I will always remember when you put your bath toys in the toilet and played with them,” Gaillot’s mother wrote on one of the pages. “Your first birthday party, you were so shocked to see all the people and the balloons.”
The care that had clearly gone into writing the book made Schwartzman even more sentimental — and so she both reached out to the local newspaper, which first published this story, and went on Facebook to type in the names found in the baby book. The story caused a stir in the 25,000-person city — locals have started to call in to say they knew the father, Donnie Gaillot, and eventually connected Schwartzman to his work number.
“It shows that people still read the newspaper,” Schwartzman said. “Fredericksburg has a real small-town feel to it. Everybody knows somebody.”
As it turned out, the family had lived in the house nearly 20 years ago — and, over the years, neither Schwartzman nor any of its new residents had bothered to go through the attic. Later this week, Schwartzman will meet with Gaillot and her father to give back the book. Stay tuned as Inman covers its return.
“It really looks like there’s going to be a happy ending,” Schwartzman said.